The Pennsylvania Swing

The “Pennsylvania Swing” is three games the Marlies play every year back to back to back. Wednesday was Hershey, followed by Friday night in Philadelphia then Saturday in Wilkes-Barre Scranton.

Wednesday night was a 4-3 loss to the Bears but more important was the loss of Jiri Tlusty. Jiri was hit into the boards and was injured. It is still unclear how long he will be sidelined. I was not at this game to be able to report more.

However, we did catch up with the team Friday night in Philadelphia to watch the Marlies play for the last time in the Spectrum before it is torn down this year. The “house of pain” on Broad Street was the site of many massacres in the mid 70’s by the “Broad Street Bullies”. I remember watching games on the TV as a youngster and thinking “don’t go in there Leafs, they’re going to kill you.”

One of my most vivid memories of that era was watching Kate Smith singing God Bless America. It was almost like saying, “Oh well, why play the game now? They don’t lose when she sings.” It started on October 11th 1973, opening night against the Leafs that Kate Smith first sang live at the Spectrum. The Flyers went on to win back to back Stanley Cups in 73-74 and 74-75 under the “lucky” voice of Kate Smith.

So, as I stood there and listened to our national anthem end, I was surprised to hear a choir start to sing God Bless America. The feeling that washed over me was incredible. It was like I could feel the ghost of Kate Smith flying through the rafters in that old building. The memories from my childhood came back all too clear. Forget the game the trip had already been worth it. What a feeling, and one that I will not soon forget.

Oh ya, the game… Adam Munro stood on his head leading us to a 3-0 win. The shots were even at 27, but the Phantoms had a lot better scoring opportunities. Early in the game Alex Berry was given a rude welcome into the AHL when he dropped the gloves with Jeffrey Szwez of the Phantoms (the nephew of one of our season ticket holders). Alex was badly out-matched in this fight and he has the stitches to prove it.

Saturday we were in Wilkes-Barre at a sold-out arena. What an atmosphere!!!! The Pens’ fans really love their hockey and are really into the game. The excitement was great until the third period when the Marlies got into some penalty trouble and a 2-2 game quickly became 4-2. A late empty net goal gave the hometown faithful one more reason to stand up and cheer.

Marlies hockey is great to watch, but there is something special about a road trip with the boys. The fans around the AHL are great and we are given warm welcomes wherever we go….OK, maybe not Rochester. Thank you to my traveling companions and to the fans of Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre, as well as the team. Hopefully more can experience the thrill of AHL hockey on the road, so until next year when the road beckons again, ado.